MICHAEL KOJO ESSIEN
Michael Kojo Essien is a former Ghanaian professional footballer and currently a member of the coaching staff for the Danish side, Nordsjælland. He played for a number of big clubs in European football including Chelsea FC, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Lyon, and Inter Milan. He also made 50 caps for the Black Stars of Ghana. Michael Essien is considered as one of the best midfielders to play in European top flight football.
Micheal Essien was born on December 3, 1982 in Accra, Ghana to Aba Gyandoh and James Essien. Essien was raised in Awutu Breku by his father. He later relocated to Accra where he was born to be with his mother and sister. A few years later, Essien won a football scholarship to St. Augustine’s College in the Central Region. It was after then he began his career as a professional footballer, playing for Liberty Professionals.
Michael Essien played for Liberty over a year before signing for French side FC Bastia in July 2000. Essien debuted for Bastia in a Ligue 1 game on 2000. Essien initially played for Bastia as a defender but later was moved to midfield where he displayed his versatility, playing defensively and offensively. By the 2002/2003 season, Essien had become a key player in the Bastia team which also attracted eyes from top teams across Europe. Essien would eventually leave Bastia for Olympic Lyon in the summer of 2003.
Essien continued to flourish in the French Ligue 1 with Lyon. He immediately became instrumental for the Ligue 1 side, helping them to secure two consecutive league titles in the 2003/2004 and the 2004/2005 seasons. Essien was then crowned as France Player of the Year for his performances during the season. This attracted the likes of Chelsea to sign him which he did.
Essien joined Chelsea in the summer of 2005 for a record €24.4 million, making him the most expensive African player at the period. Essien also contributed immensely to the success of Chelsea in his first season, helping Chelsea win the Premier League Title for the second time. In 2006, Essien was named the BBC African footballer of the year. He went ahead to achieve most of his success in his Chelsea career, winning his second Premier League title in 2010, a Champions League trophy in 2012, three FA Cups and a League cup. Despite achieving great success at Chelsea, Essien would be faced with injury crises which saw his playing time reduced.
Michael Essien was loaned to Spanish giants, Real Madrid in the 2012/2013 where he reunited with his former manager at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho. Essien played a season for Real Madrid and returned to Chelsea.
Michael Essien signed for Italian side AC Milan in January 2014 and played a total of 22 games for the club. In 2016, he signed for the Greek club, Panathinaikos and played only 16 total matches as a result of being injured most of the time. Essien joined Persib Bandung in Indonesia in 2017 and played for a season before he was released again. He also signed for Sabail in Azerbaijan in 2019.
Michael Essien began his international journey with Ghana’s U-17 team. He featured in the U-17 FIFA World Cup in 1999 where Ghana placed third in the tournament. He also played in the FIFA World Youth Championship for the Black Satellites in which they finished as runners-up.
He made his Senior debut for the Blackstars in 2002 against Morrocco in the African Cup of Nations. Michael Essien was very instrumental in Ghana’s qualification for the 2006 World Cup in Germany which became Ghana’s first ever appearance in the World Cup. At the World Cup, Essien together with Stephen Appiah and Sulley Muntari commanded the midfield. Ghana became the only African country to qualify for the knockout stages in the 2006 World Cup where they were eliminated by Brazil in a 3-0 loss.
In the 2008 Afcon, Michael Essien’s performances solidified him as a staple in the Black Stars as the team reached the Semi Finals, however, they were eliminated by Cameroon by a 1-0 defeat. At the end of the tournament, Ghana placed third.
Essien also helped Ghana qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He played 10 out of 11 games, however, it was announced that Essien would not be able to recover from an injury and therefore, cannot play in the World Cup. Although it was a huge blow for the national team, Ghana was able to reach the Knockout stage and would go as far as the Quarter Finals, becoming just the third African team to achieve this feat.
After a period of hiatus from the Black Stars camp, Michael Essien returned to the team for 2014 World Cup qualifiers and helped the Black Stars secure a Qualification to the Tournament. However, Essien would only make one appearance in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in a 2-1 loss to the USA. Essien then announced his retirement from the National Team in 2018. He had made 50 caps for the Black Stars and scored 9 goals.
Michael Essien has a quiet and reserved life, and was known for his shyness on camera earlier in his career. However, his affair with famous Ghanaian Actress, Nadia Buari received a lot of attention in the late 2000s.
Essien is currently married with two kids. He tied the knot with Akosua Puni, a Ghanaian publicist.
Essien also has a French Citizenship which he acquired during his early days in the French Ligue 1.
Michael Essien hosted a charity match in Ghana in 2013 which featured High profile players across the globe including the likes of Florent Malouda, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack, Emmanuel Adebayo and many more. The match was played in the Accra Sports Stadium and was aimed at raising funds for a water project in Essien’s hometown of Awutu Breku in the Central Region.